Human beings have a profound connection with music and storytelling, and today the options for indulging in these passions are endless. But the impacts of sound reach far beyond our choices of entertainment.
The world we live in is increasingly loud, and finding quiet places can be like discovering hidden treasures in a bustling urban jungle. Noise does affect us, and we’re seeking different ways to control itand set our own moods.
One method is white noise – that unobtrusive, soothing hum reminiscent of air conditioners and radio static. It creates a consistent audio backdrop that takes the edge off sudden, jarring noises. As studies suggest that natural sounds can help people relax, there's a whole spectrum to explore. Pink noise has lower frequencies than white, offering a mellower vibe, like steady rainfall or wind whistling through trees. Brown noise uses the deepest rumbling frequencies, such as thunderstorms or crashing ocean waves.
The link with calmness, peaceful sleep and better concentration has made these noise variants a popular choice. In fact, Spotify ($SPOT) users listen to around 3 million hours of white noise and ambient podcasts every day. The company even changed these podcasts’ eligibility for certain ad revenues recently, in a bid to retain money and increase its annual gross profits by US$38m.
There’s been particular interest in how sounds can aid with a night’s rest. The international sleep economy is expected to reach US$585m next year – a dreamy opportunity for many. Specialised headphones for sleeping have emerged and the technology behind sleep apnea devices from ResMed ($RMD) has advanced to make them emit white noise to avoid disturbing others.
Another growth area is autonomous sensory meridian response, or ASMR, an oddly satisfying sensation we get from certain sounds – usually gentle ones amplified by a microphone. Advertisers certainly caught onto this trend, with ASMR videos becoming a hot genre on platforms like YouTube ($GOOG). Big brands like McDonald’s ($MCD) and Dove ($DOV) have incorporated soothing sounds and whispered voices into their commercials.
Silence is a rare event, and global revenues for speakers are estimated to reach US$43.7b in 2023. But it’s clear that manufacturers like Sonos ($SONO) or Dolby ($DLB) are not the only companies involved in appeasing our desire to keep our ears in tune.